June 21, 2018
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Red Sox DH position up for grabs with Ortiz sidelined

By The Sports Xchange, Special to the BDN

OK, now what?

Now that it’s clear designated hitter David Ortiz will not be ready for Opening Day — no one knows when he’ll be ready — the Red Sox must begin the unpalatable task of figuring out which dominoes will fall.

“Well, Opening Day was my goal,” a dejected Ortiz said. “You guys heard me talking about it when I first got here (to spring training). I was feeling good and pushing things the way I was being told. Right now, Opening Day seems like it’s not the case. The case is get me healthy for five or 5 1/2 good months. That’s what we’re looking for now.”

Ortiz received some clarification on his condition in the form of MRIs on both heels on March 9. The tests revealed inflammation in both heels, though the Red Sox claim the inflammation is not related to the balky right Achilles injury that basically sidelined him since last July. They did say, and Ortiz confirmed, that the right heel is bothering him more than the left.

With Ortiz sidelined, the Sox have a number of options. The boldest would be to keep rookie Jackie Bradley Jr., who has never played above Double-A, on the roster and make him the starting left fielder, with Jonny Gomes sliding to designated hitter.

The designated hitter position also could feature some combination of Daniel Nava, Mike Carp or Lyle Overbay, should the veteran make the team.

None would provide the pop of Ortiz, but such is the Red Sox’s current situation.

Red Sox notebook

• RHP John Lackey can point to a tangible improvement since undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s now able to throw his fastball inside against left-handed hitters and away to right-handers. That may not sound like a huge deal, but for a pitcher like Lackey, it’s significant. Since he’s never going to blow anyone away, he needs to be able to keep hitters honest. A fastball that only gets halfway to the inside corner isn’t so much a fastball as a meatball, but one that gets all the way there might as well be a bowling ball. Lackey explained what things felt like before surgery. “In to lefties and away to righties was a little tougher, because that extension point is where I felt the twinge,” Lackey said. “That’s definitely nice to be able to do that without pain, to be able to get extended and get to that side of the plate. Before, my arm didn’t go all the way straight.”

• C David Ross found himself amusingly trending on Twitter for a time after former Braves teammate Chipper Jones joked on the social networking site that Ross should start a rumor that Jones is coming out of retirement to play for the Red Sox. Jones was playing off quotes from Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who said he’d love to have Jones join the Bombers, resulting in about 10,000 more followers for Jones’ Twitter account. “I asked him if he was staying in retirement, and he said, ‘I ain’t going nowhere,’” Ross said. “I came in thinking I’d help him out, but then I realized it probably wasn’t a good idea. It’s funny to Chipper, but all of a sudden if my name’s attached to it, I might have to answer to our front office.”

• OF Jackie Bradley Jr. was making a real push to make the big-league club, as he was hitting .536 (15-for-28) through March 13 while playing flawless defense. 3B Will Middlebrooks has an interesting perspective on the situation, since he opened eyes last spring before beginning the season at Triple-A. He was recalled in May and had an excellent season. “I needed every at-bat I had in the minors,” Middlebrooks said. “The year before, I had kind of figured out an approach and a routine, and I was able to make that more of a habit, so when I got here, I was able to hit the ground running.”

• RHP Clay Buchholz did not allow a run in his first 8 1/3 innings this spring, and he has a theory for why he has pitched so well since starting the slate of games a little late thanks to a pulled hamstring: faster tempo. “Everything’s starting to fall together,” Buchholz said. “Just able to go out there and execute pitches one after another a little bit better than the last time out and the time before that.”

• RHP Alfredo Aceves was a man in demand after getting in a brawl while pitching for Mexico at the World Baseball Classic, but Aceves had no regrets, even though he was jumped by Canada’s Tyson Gillies and ended up with a bruise on his head. “The fighting was with the pitcher and the hitter. So I was saying, ‘Calm down, man, calm down, come on, man.’ And he just grabbed me and threw me on the floor. So I was like, ‘I’m going to throw you on the floor, man.’ Then when I jumped in to this guy, I had seven guys against me.”

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